The MonkMartyr Kornilii of Pskovo-Pechersk

Commemorated on February 20

      The MonkMartyr Kornilii of Pskovo-Pechersk was born in the year 1501 at Pskov into the boyar-noble family of Stefan and Maria. In order to give their son an education, his parents sent him to the Pskov Mirozh monastery, where he worked under the guidance of an elder: he made candles, chopped wood, studied his letters, transcription and adornment of books, and also iconography. Having finished his studies, Kornilii returned to his parental home with the resolve to become a monk.
      One time the government clerk Misiur Munekhin took Kornilii with him to the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery set amidst the woods, and which then was in more miserable a condition than any other Pskov churchyard. The beauty of nature there, and the calm of services in the cave church produced so very strong an impression on Kornilii, that he left his parental home forever and accepted monastic tonsure at the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery.
      In 1529, at age 28, the Monk Kornilii was elevated to hegumen and became head of the monastery. While he was hegumen, the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery reached the height of its prime. The number of brethren increased from 15 to 200 men. This number of residents was not exceeded under any other subsequent head of the monastery.
      The activity of the Monk Kornilii extended far beyond the bounds of the monastery: he disseminated Orthodoxy amongst the Esti (Aesti) and Saeti people living around the monastery, he built churches, hospices, homes for orphans and those in need. During the time of a terrible plague in the Pskov region the Monk Kornilii walked through the plague-infested villages to give communion to the living and to sing burial-service at the circular pits with the dead.
      During the time of the Livonian war the Monk Kornilii preached Christianity in the occupied cities, built churches there, by hand distributed generous aid from the monastery storerooms to the Esti and Livonians suffering during the time of war; at the monastery he selflessly doctored and fed the injured and the maimed, preserved the killed within the caves and inscribed their names in the monastery synodikon-record for eternal remembrance.
      In the year 1560, on the feast of the Uspenie (Dormition) of the Mother of God, the Monk Kornilii sent by way of blessing for the Russian armies, besieging the city of Thellin, a prosphora and holy water. On that very day the Germans surrendered the city. In 1570 at the establishing of a cathedra-see in Livonian Yur'ev, there was appointed as bishop of Yur'ev and Vel'yansk (i.e. Thellin) a certain hegumen Kornilii. Some have identified him with the Monk Kornilii, but this does not correspond with actual events. The Monk Kornilii was a great expert and lover of books at the monastery was gathered quite solid a collection of books. In 1531 came out his work entitled, "An Account Concerning the Origin of the Pechersk Monastery". In the mid-XVI Century the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery took over from the Spaso-Eleaszarov monastery the tradition of chronicle-keeping. At the start of the chronicles was put accounts of the first two Pskov chronicles in rough-draft continuation from 1547 to 1567. Besides this, Hegumen Kornilii left behind a great monastery Synodikon for remembrance of deceased brothers and benefactors of the monastery, and he began to maintain the "Stern-side Book" ["Kormovaya kniga", i.e. the ship-stern is the back-side (sic) the sense of "looking back in remembrance"] from the year 1588; he compiled also a "Description of the Monastery" and a "Description of the Miracles of the Pechersk Icon of the Mother of God".
      The Monk Kornilii expanded and beautified the monastery, he dug out further the monastery caves, he transported the wooden church named for the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia beyond the monastery enclosure to the entryway monastery gate, and on its site in the year 1541 he built a church in the name of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God, and in 1559 he constructed a church in honour of the Protection-Pokrov of the MostHoly Mother of God.
      The Pechersk monastery, risen up on the frontier of the Russian state, was not only a luminary of Orthodoxy, but also a bulwark against the external enemies of Russia.
      In the years 1558-1565 the Monk Kornilii erected round about the monastery a massive stone wall, and over the holy gates in accord with his plan he built a stone church in the name of Saint Nicholas, entrusting to him the guarding of the monastery. Within the temple was set a wooden sculpted image of "Nikola the Warrior".
      In the chronicle, compiled by the monk-deacon Pitirim, was thus recorded about the martyr's death of the Monk Kornilii: "This worthy-blest hegumen Kornilii... was as hegumen 41 years and 2 months; by his fast-keeping and holy life not only as a monk was he an image unto salvation... in these times being then in the Russian land evil sufferance of much unrest, and finally, from this perishable life the earthly tsar did dispatch him unto the Heavenly Tsar unto eternal habitation, in the year 1570 on the 20th day of February, in his 69th year from birth". (This information is on the ceramic plate from the ceramics covering the mouth of the tomb of the Monk Kornilii).
      In the ancient manuscripts of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra it was written, that when Hegumen Kornilii came out the monastery gates with a cross to meet the tsar, tsar Ivan the Terrible, angered by a false slander, with his own hand cut off his head, but then immediately repented of his deed and, taking up the body, in his own hands he carried it into the monastery. The pathway made scarlet by the blood of the Monk Kornilii, along which the tsar carried his body to the Uspenie-Dormition church, became called the "Bloody Path". Evidence of the tsar's repenting his deed was the generous recompense to the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery, made by him after the death of the Monk Kornilii. The name of the Hegumen Kornilii was inscribed in the tsar's remembrance-synodikon.
      The body of the Monk Kornilii was set into the wall of "the cave formed by God", wherein it passed 120 years without corruption. In the year 1690 Markell, metropolitan of Pskov and Izborsk, had the relics transferred from the cave to the Uspenie-Dormition cathedral church and placed in a new crypt in the wall.
      On 17 December 1872 the relics of the Monk Kornilii were transferred from the former tomb into a copper-silver reliquary, and in 1892 into a new reliquary. It is presumed, that the service to the monk-martyr was compiled for the day of the Uncovering of the Relics, in the year 1690.

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

Close window

The MonkMartyr
Kornilii of Pskovo-Pechersk

Close window